Five classic Canadian Grand Prix races

Jamie Woodhouse
Jenson Button PA

Jenson Button competed in Japanese GP with broken hand after punching a drum on a night out.

The Canadian Grand Prix has proven to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable features of the Formula 1 calendar since its first staging in 1967.

A race which has given berth to new stars and bit back against major players, we hope the 2019 edition will be no different.

Let’s look back at five classics to wet our appetite…

1978 – Gilles Villeneuve wins in home race debut

Gilles Villeneuve Canada 1978.
Gilles Villeneuve Canada 1978.

In what was a race of firsts, Villeneuve scored his first win in Formula 1 in his first home race: The 1978 Canadian Grand Prix.

To add to the history-making feel, it was also the inaugural race on what was then called the Circuit Île Notre Dame.

The Ferrari man took the lead when Lotus-Cosworth’s Jean-Pierre Jarier retired on lap 20, allowing Villeneuve to race on and claim victory.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Villeneuve said after the race as the crowd went wild.

“To win a grand prix is something, but to win your first grand prix at home is completely unthinkable.”

Before this George Eaton had been the best-placed Canadian finisher at a home grand prix with P10 in 1970.

1999 – Wall of Champions

An iconic feature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve these days is the “Wall of Champions” – a seemingly unspectacular wall at the exit of the chicane that sends you onto the pit straight to complete your lap.

However, 1999 was the year that gave this bit of concrete its name and fearsome reputation.

BAR’s Ricardo Zonta was the first victim three laps into the race, before 1996 World Champion Damon Hill lost control of his Jordan on lap 15 and was claimed by the Wall of Champions.

15 laps passed before Mika Haikkinen forced rival Michael Schumacher into a mistake as the barrier ended his race.

Its thirst for retirements was finally quenched when 1997 Champion and son of Gilles, Jacques Villeneuve joined his BAR team-mate as a victim at the halfway point.

Hakkinen would hold his nerve to take victory, the only win in Canada of his career, and on that afternoon he was the sole World Champion in the field left standing.

For more recent champions who have dared to try their luck and failed, ask Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button all about it.

2007 – Rookie Lewis Hamilton makes history

Lewis Hamilton 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
2006: The year Lewis Hamilton became a "massive problem".

It was his first season in Formula 1 with McLaren, but already the Brit was proving a match for reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso as the rivalry between the team’s new driver line-up continued to grow.

In fact nothing separated them going into round six in Canada, they were tied on points, but it was Hamilton who held his nerve.

After qualifying on pole, Hamilton would fend off Alonso at the start with the Spaniard running wide at Turn One and dropping behind Nick Heidfeld.

The damage caused to Alonso’s MP4-22 resulted in him going off at the same turn a further three times in the race, while Hamilton sailed away to take the win.

That victory made him the only driver to win the Canadian Grand Prix in his rookie year, and also the first black driver to win a race in Formula One.

“This is history,” Hamilton said after the race. “I wanted to stop the car (on the final lap) and jump out and just do, I don’t know, cartwheels or something.”

It’s a track that’s continued to be kind to Hamilton – he has now claimed victory here six times.

2008 – Robert Kubica’s miracle comeback

12 months prior the Polish driver had been involved in one of the most dramatic and frightening solo crashes in Formula 1 history.

On Lap 26 the BMW-Sauber man got squeezed off the track at about 300 km/h and slammed into a concrete barrier on the run to the hairpin. By the time he came to a halt against the barriers at the other side of the hairpin, all that was left was the cockpit with Kubica inside.

Remarkably, he escaped with just a sore ankle and a concussion, and the following year he took advantage of a bizarre incident to claim his only Formula One race win.

Race leader Hamilton went into the back of Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari as it waited at a red light at the pit exit under Safety Car conditions, allowing Kubica to take the lead and head a one-two finish for BMW Sauber.

The stuff of dreams for Kubica to help him escape the worst of nightmares.

2011 – Jenson Button rides out the storm

Button started the race P7 and this bonkers Canadian Grand Prix didn’t take long to deliver the drama.

The race started behind the Safety Car after heavy rain showers had soaked the track, and when it returned to the pits on lap five Vettel fended off Alonso to keep his lead, while Button dropped back down to P7 after running wide.

Now behind Schumacher and Hamilton, Button quickly reclaimed P6 as a result of Hamilton’s failed overtake on Schumacher, but the McLaren duo would collide on the pit straight as the Brit’s squabbled for position. It was the end of the line for Hamilton, while the Safety Car reemerged. Button pitted for intermediates, but a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the Safety Car saw him drop to P15.

The race resumed on lap 13, but by lap 19 a rain storm arrived, causing those on inters, Button included, to drop down the field before the race was eventually suspended.

When the Grand Prix eventually restarted over two hours later it wasn’t long before Button and Alonso collided, causing the Spaniard’s Ferrari to get beached on the Turn Three kerb – out came the Safety Car again!

Button was down to last after a puncture from the incident but worked his way back to P14 by lap 44, and after another pit stop he was P4 and catching the leading trio of Vettel, Schumacher and Webber.

The Brit made it passed Webber after the Red Bull man cut the chicane for a second time, while he also picked off Schumacher on the same lap to move into P2.

Vettel had a 0.9s lead over Button on the final lap but he would run wide at Turn 6, allowing Button to take the lead and a truly mad victory.

With the 2019 edition of this classic Formula 1 event getting underway this weekend, bring yourself up to date with all the major talking points and things to look out for with PlanetF1’s preview.

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